I recently had the pleasure of being photographed by Michael "Chester" Alamo & Costello (yes, that’s his name). Chester is working on a series of photographs of Chicago artists. When he asked if I would allow him to do mine, I was honored.
I wasn't sure what to expect; Chester came to my studio with a couple of lights, cameras, and other photography equipment. I have a large space, so luckily it all fit comfortably. The one thing I did know was that he wanted to photograph Sarah (my better half) and myself together.
When he arrived, and I found out where he wanted to take the pictures, I had an urge to tidy up a bit. He scolded when I attempted to clean up, but I didn’t like what I was seeing, so, as we talked about this thing or that, I slowly moved stuff off the bar hoping not to get into any more trouble.
Chester directed us a bit and we talked back and forth while he was working. Then it came, what I though was a joke begun to sink in as a reality, Chester wanted me to lie down on the bar. Needless to say I wasn't comfortable with this, and laughing, Chester looked at me and said "Do you think I am kidding?" Yes Chester, I did. After a dozen or so more shots, we set up the one you see above, me lying down with my head in Sarah's lap.
This whole process was familiar to me; mainly because of the experiences I have had doing the Portrait Project. That being said, I believe this was the first time that I have had my portrait done. I recommend checking out Chester’s website and photos; they provide insight into the artists that make up the Chicago scene.
In his statement about his portraits, Chester said that… (Chicago) does not offer the fame found in LA or the potential for youthful success acquired in NYC, however it does offer severe weather, lots of murders, crooked politicians, rising rents, and minimal chance for financial success in the arts. These are ideal circumstances to create quality work that comments on the "true" current American condition. The images contained here are of creative types who have weathered the windy city.
I would like to explain a bit about what “the portrait” means in this day and age. You would never walk into an artist’s studio and ask to have you portrait painted in some grand regal style like ‘way back when’. Today, portraits are initiated mainly by artists and I would say the majority of portraits being painted around the world are done free of charge, although the rights to those images are often controlled by the artists. The portraits are done in a familiar place to allow the sitter to remain calm and ‘be themselves’: showing their faults, imperfections, preferences, habits (good and bad), weaknesses and strengths.
In the case of Sarah and me, Chester is showing an icon of a relationship; a hint of what is real within the photograph. Having our portrait done by someone else, reminded me that that art is still one way of communicating, and even if it’s not the fastest medium to produce, it just may communicate something deeper.
One week after having my portrait done, I got the opportunity to return the favor by adding Chester to my Portrait Project. Thanks Chester, for the portrait and the learning experience.